Re: ATTN: JMS Changes in the Story due to Actors

 Posted on 4/24/1996 by to

"First, I've heard the actor who played General Hague was supposed to
continue with the show but ended up going someplace else."

That's correct. He bailed at the last minute, even though we had first
dibs on him. Not much point to forcing an actor to stay if he wants to
go; you just get an unhappy set and a less than stellar performance. That
situation led to changing a grand total of 3 lines. Anything in Hague's
situation is what's called a "moveable piece," meaning it can be easily
assigned to others.

"Second, I've heard the actress that plays Delenn was supposed to remain
fully Membari but didn't like the heavy make-up"

Nope. That was never the intent. She was *always* going to make this
and is now part-human.

"Third, the Sinclair thing. We all wonder if he's supposed to be back or
what (probably, "or what")--especially based on the "Babylon Squared" show
where Sinclair is the apparent leader of the Good Guys (tm)."

Watch the two-parter. We'll talk afterward.

"I heard Bruce Box...(uh, I'm too stupid to spell his name correctly)
isn't happy with the ratings, etc."

Point being...? Bruce is happy with the show, and staying with it; like
the rest of us, he wishes the show got more attention here in the US on a
par with what it gets overseas, particularly in the UK.

"I'm do you deal with these things and keep the necessary
consistency? Are you just "rolling with the punches" and letting the
changes take place but keeping the main story idea intact? That's my
guess. Perhaps no one actor or person is essential to the story?"

As a writer, doing a long-term story, it'd be dangerous and short-sighted
for me to construct the story without trap doors for every single
character. Because Stuff Happens. An actor can get hit by a meteor, walk
off, whatever. So I deliberately and very carefully constructed this
puppy to be more or less airtight no matter what happens. You want to
drive from LA to San Diego. You figure on taking the 5 freeway all the
way down. Only when you get to the Slausen Cutoff (insert joke here),
there's a traffic you get off, take some alternate streets, and
come back again right back on track. Same thing here.

That was one of the big risks going into a long-term storyline which I
considered long in advance; you can't predict real-world events, so you
have to compensate for them and plan for them in advance. Otherwise you
could paint yourself into a corner.

Similarly, there are story changes that come up at me by surprise, which
make total sense, which result in actor changes. As a writer, you have to
be flexible enough to recognize a stronger, better path when it presents
itself; to be so rigidly locked into your prior structure eliminates
spontaneity and the chance to explore new routes. This is exactly the
same thing that happens when you write a novel; you learn things 1/2 way
through writing a novel you can learn no other way.

I've been writing and selling since I was 17. In all that time, I've
never once followed an outline beat-for-beat once I got into the main
writing, whatever the final venue. No outline survives contact with the
enemy. It's a *guideline* that keeps you on track when you waver, and
serves as base camp, providing security when it strikes you to go off and
explore a path you hadn't noticed before.